Down to earth. That’s probably the best way to describe Edson Sabajo. Being the co-founder of Patta, probably the most successful concept in Dutch-based street wear, brings a lot of responsibility. But it took hard work and perseverance. Being a resident DJ in ‘92 for café ‘De Duivel’ in Amsterdam brought Edson into the limelight of the Dutch Hip Hop scene.
When the famous hip-hop clothing and record store Fat Beats in Amsterdam, where Edson was employed, was forced to shut down because of financial difficulties,
This was the moment for Edson to decide what he wanted to pursue in life; playing soccer, dj-ing, music or women. Little did he know that sneakers, which he has been collecting since ’88, would become his future. Yet in the end it seems like the most obvious path - it is about connecting the dots.
How’s your working day like being Edson Sabajo?
I don’t want to sound like acting important, but I’m busy. Some days are crazy. We run a company with a steady crew, but we also work with interns from all over the world. That’s what it’s like to be part of Patta. It has always been our main focus and a very important part of our goals when we first started: to established Patta as a worldwide brand. So yeah, if you want to reach that point, you really have to work for it.
Is there some sort of source of that motivation?
All that I am and what I do is definitely a result of my heritage that certainly consists of two things: My Surinamese background and representing the straightforward type of behavior that comes with being from Amsterdam. That’s the kind of bluff you have to be able to back up. That’s me right there.
Is this the same bluff that brought you this far?
Somehow I would say yes. You have to believe in something. When we first started with Patta we had an idea, but no clue where it would end, but we kept going, pursuing. But in the meantime we had to make some harsh choices too. There were times we had to stop and look and ask ourselves if it was worth keep going on, sometimes struggling and sometimes even stepping off the gas pedal. But you have to make choices, because at some point being indecisive is killing.
Is that what you would advise future designers?
Look, my point is that it is important that everybody has the right to some sort of freedom in what to do and how to do it. Whether it’s in fashion or any other industry. But we live in a country where you have to pay the rent. But never miss out on your dream - just do it. Live it!
Who were the people who gave you the inspiration to pass on to the next?
I found my inspiration in graffiti artists. I’ve always been a fan of CBS (Criminal Bombing Squad, famous graffiti crew from Amsterdam, red.) I’ve always loved that art form. That’s Hip Hop right there. But also people like Clyde Semmoh; People who were different from the rest. Clyde was one of the well-known dj’s, a skateboard champion with dreads.
Would you say people always have to be original or make a statement?
No not at all. Actually I don’t really care if you make a statement or not. Whether it’s in fashion, on the catwalk, or the way you dress. But I know I appreciate it the most when people do something just because they feel like it. For example, I like the dandy’s from Congo. I mean, these are men who don’t care if they make money or not. They just dress a certain way. They have their own style, their own way of living.
Is diversity the thing that comes to mind when you talk about African design?
You can say so. You know, I think diversity should be more common. It’s easy to be inspired by diversity nowadays. I’m from the old school - back then there was no such thing as the Internet. I don’t believe in the phrase ‘everything was better back in the days’, I think we are better off now. And diversity adds value to our way of living. Just like the impact of people from Surinam who were the pioneers when it comes to hip hop culture in Holland. Even preppy white guys adapted the language and culture.
What’s it going to be like ten years from now?
I believe that, with the technology we have already, ten years from now the possibilities will be almost endless. Technology makes it easier to travel, to book a trip to Tokyo for 300 euros - It’s unstoppable. You can go and get your inspiration from anywhere.
In that case what would be your advice to the next generation?
Our team mainly consists of young driven people. It’s all about mutual respect. We accept them, we talk, exchange thoughts - I recognize different things in them from when I was younger. I learn a lot from them - especially in the creative field. What I always say to them is: work hard, play hard. You have got to believe in what you do. If the struggle makes you fall, one, two, ten times - get up. It will work out somehow. Trust me, I know. Keep connecting the dots.